Seattle was one huge wedding
party last weekend. Thanks to official certification of last month’s victorious
Referendum 74 — which grants marriage rights regardless of sexual orientation
— hundreds of gay and lesbian couples went to their local county courthouses
to get their marriage licenses last week. Then, due to Washington’s mandatory
three-day waiting period, Sunday marked the first official day of marriage
nuptials for gay and lesbian couples.

And the downtown of our city
was an extravaganza of same-sex weddings.

Mayor McGinn opened City Hall
to any couple who wanted to be married by a judge — 142 couples took him up on
the offer and exchanged their vows that day. After their vows they paraded one
at a time down the grand staircase to Fourth Avenue as crowds cheered them on,
threw rice and sang love songs. The Symphony Hall down the street was host to a
single, grand, combined wedding reception for couples who’d just been married.
Lesbian couples who’d been partners for over 30 years stood in line to say
their official vows. Gay couples shared their promises and joyfully kissed in
the grand lobby of City Hall. Judge Mary Yu (that’s her real name) officiated
at the first ceremony and dozens of ceremonies afterward. Churches got into it,
too. Seattle First Baptist hosted 25 couples who were married simultaneously
inside the stained glass majesty of the old, brick, Gothic  structure.

A few blocks away, after
worship services, our United Methodist sanctuary was empty and sadly silent. No
celebrations. No vows. No lovers making their vows before God.

Why no United Methodist
festivities on this historic day for Seattle’s gay couples? Simple. Paragraph
2702.1.b of the Book of Discipline forbids us as from sharing in the
love. The yoke of an increasingly outdated and draconian church law forces us
into silence as the celebrations take place outside our doors. The rule is
placed in the Discipline’s “chargeable offenses”
category, meaning that a UM clergyperson who officiates at a same-sex wedding
is comparable to one who engages in sexual misconduct, crime, child abuse,
racial discrimination or harassment. In other words, a county judge can legally
conduct a same sex marriage in my state, but a UM pastor is somehow not
supposed to.

Now, I don’t mean to say there
aren’t United Methodist churches who are hosting gay weddings, or that there
aren’t UMC pastors who are doing same-sex nuptials. No, many of us are quietly
breaking the rules. Many of our UM churches have, in civil-disobedience style,
adopted policies that allow same sex weddings in the buildings. We know we’re
breaking the rules and we don’t proudly flaunt it. So the big and public
celebrations are at the Lutheran church. Or the Episcopal. Or the UCC. Or the
American Baptist. Same sex couples who are in love and want to dedicate their
lives to each other need to know that United Methodists have closed doors,
closed minds, closed hearts.

While the festivities were
happening in Seattle, conservative commentator George Will was on the Sunday
talk shows. His opinion on marriage equality?

“Quite
literally, the opposition to gay marriage is dying. It’s old people.”



At the same time a nationwide
poll
showed a plurality of Americans support marriage equality. This year
marriage equality was not even discussed in the presidential election. The tide
has turned on this once-controversial topic, and our denomination looks
increasingly backwards in its approach.

The country is discovering that
civil rights shouldn’t be controversial. I’m so sad to think of United
Methodists who are gay and lesbian, who are in love and who want to share their
vows before their church families in their church home, only to discover our
horse and buggy rules don’t cut it in a plug-in hybrid world.

Our congregation chooses to be
faithfully disobedient to the Book of Discipline and instead to follow
the Gospel of Love by ignoring Paragraph 2702.1.b. I’m meeting with a gay couple
this very evening to plan their ceremony. But I’m still sad that the
denomination I love hasn’t figured out the truth of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s
words. The moral arc of the universe is long, indeed, but it bends toward
justice.

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